Political Turmoil, Economic Uncertainty Mars J&K As Unemployment Continues to Surge
‘The highest unemployment rate manifests the after-effects of deliberately induced economic shocks to J&K’s economy post special status abrogation.’
SRINAGAR — Despite the government’s claims of increased job possibilities following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, a recent poll by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has revealed that the rate of unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir is highest in the country at 21.6 per cent.
The findings come at a time when more people are fearful of losing jobs and many others are looking at an unstable business landscape in the region. There is little hope amongst the youth who are now staring at a further economic plunge.
The unemployment rate in J&K was 4.8 per cent in July-September 2019, 7.3 per cent in October-December 2019, 9.2 per cent in January-March 2020, and 10.1 per cent in April-June 2020, according to the report.
This is a sign of a weakening economy, Ejaz Ayoub, an economic analyst, told Mountain Ink. “These figures show that the agrarian sector, which employs around 10 lakh people in Kashmir, and then the commercial sector, which also employs about 10 lakh people, have both been severely impacted.”
The construction industry used to employ 7 lakh people who relied on it for a living. In the last three years, this has also taken a significant hit.
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The circumstances following the abrogation was a severe setback for our commerce sector, Ayoub said. “Businesses were forced to lay off workers. The manufacturing industry’s supply chain was broken.”
Supply-demand equilibrium lost balance. Our overall poverty ratio grew astoundingly as compared to the other places in India, which is unprecedented, he said.
Though the J&K’s unemployment rate, as per CMIE, has witnessed a decline from January 2021 till June 2021, it dwindled in September when it surpassed the national average of unemployment.
According to Sheikh Ashiq, President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as long as the local businesses remain in bad shape, unemployment will continue to rise. “We’ve had a difficult time in the previous few years.” After August 5, 2019, “we had barely begun to stabilise the businesses when Covid lockdown began.”
Ashiq said, “We at KCCI have time and time again advocated steps that could improve the businesses,” he said, adding that the economy has never been the same since August 5, 2019.
He said local job providers and enterprises must be strengthened so that the youth can have a secure future in the job industry.
Using Consumer Pyramids Household Survey machinery, CMIE calculated India’s unemployment rate as 6.86 per cent, indicating that J&K had a significantly higher unemployment rate than the national average. In comparison to states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, MP, and Gujarat, J&K has the highest unemployment rate among illiterate people.
According to the Directorate of Employment’s 2020 employment registration, J&K witnessed 3 lakh registrations from postgraduates and PhD degree holders.
As per the National Statistical Office (NSO)’s latest report, “Annual Report, Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS),” for Quarter 3 of the Financial year 2020-21, J&K had the highest unemployment rate followed by Kerala at 16.7 per cent and Jharkhand at 16 per cent.
“In the July-September 2019 quarter the unemployment rate in urban J&K was recorded at 4.8 per cent, October-December 2019 at 7.3 per cent, January-March 2020 at 9.2 per cent and April-June 2020 at 10.1 per cent,” the report says.
For the compilation of the study, the NSO surveyed 231 villages in rural J&K, where over 8900 people were surveyed, and 1400 families in 175 blocks in urban J&K, where over 6300 people were surveyed.
Kashmir’s former communist lawmaker M Y Tarigami said that these numbers debunk the BJP government’s assertions that J&K has witnessed significant “growth and development” since the former State’s special status was revoked.
The level of unemployment in J&K can be gauged by the fact that tens of thousands of highly educated unemployed youth applied for only 8575 class-IV vacancies advertised by the J&K Services Selection Board (SSB) in June 2020, he said.
The government of India’s policy of firing employees and outsourcing recruitment have exacerbated the situation, National Conference Spokesperson, Imran Nabi Dar said. “CMIE figures have exposed the underbelly of J&K on unemployment. These numbers have debunked their false narrative and shattered the GOI’s and the incumbent J&K Admin’s cosmetic development pomp and show.” Apart from the calm and tranquilly that has been eroding in J&K, employment has been strangling since 2019, he said.
This highest unemployment rate manifests the after-effects of deliberately induced economic shocks to J&K’s post-August 5 economy, believes Najm-us-Saqib of the PDP.
“Whether it is auctioning of mines, infrastructure contracts, liquor stores and jobs, everything is being awarded to non-residents of J&K. Even business houses are being persistently hounded by ED, IT Department, NIA and others scaring away the private sector, he said.
Crown jewels of our economy, Saqib said, like the Horticulture, Handicrafts and Tourism sector are neglected due to official apathy. “It almost feels like economic disempowerment of J&K is the official policy in Vogue these days. Pervasive corruption is eating into the vitals of institutions.”
Youngsters are not only jobless but a bleak economic landscape has induced a sense of hopelessness in them too, he added.
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Meher Qadri is a former staff writer at the Mountain Ink.